Welfare Reform/TANF

How States Use Federal and State Funds Under the TANF Block Grant

Recently both the House and Senate passed budget plans that would turn key safety net programs into block grants. Block grant proponents often tout the replacement of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant under the 1996 welfare law as a model for how to restructure key federally funded safety-net programs for low-income families. A close examination of how states have used the funds under TANF, however, provides a cautionary tale about the dangers of block-granting core safety-net programs and providing extensive flexibility to states on use of the funds.


State Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Programs Do Not Provide Adequate Safety Net for Poor Families

State TANF programs have weakened significantly as a safety net since TANF’s creation in the 1996 welfare law.

Not only does TANF reach many fewer needy families than it used to, but TANF benefits have lost a fifth of their value since 1996 in most states and leave families far below the poverty line, making it extremely difficult for them to meet basic needs.

This interactive map provides a wealth of information about TANF in each state.



TANF Research Funds Promote More Effective Human Service Programs and Should Be Restored

The 1996 welfare law provides $15 million each year for research and demonstration projects to expand our knowledge of effective ways to improve employment and earnings among TANF recipients and other poor families. This modest but stable funding source has helped states, localities, and welfare-to-work programs design more effective programs. Unfortunately, it is in jeopardy.



The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant provides federal funds to states for income assistance programs for poor families with children, welfare-to-work efforts, work supports such as child care, and other social services for low-income families.  Roughly 4 million Americans receive TANF-funded assistance.

Policy Basics:
An Introduction to TANF

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The Center conducts research and analysis on federal TANF issues as well as state policy choices and implementation issues.  We also provide technical assistance to state policymakers and policy analysts to help states design their TANF programs to reach more eligible families and meet families’ particular needs.

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